As the home buying market slowly warms up, buyers are getting their checklists ready in search of the perfect place to fit their needs. But a potential problem with that approach is that you might not consider the long view of a property. As you shop, you may be only looking at a house as a potential buyer, not as someone who, several years down the road, may have to sell that property.
So what adds value to homes? Some say it’s the curb appeal or the school district. But what about the less obvious features? Whether you’re a Baby Boomer or you’re just looking to move out of your starter home, here’s your home buying guide for experienced buyers.
1. Location. The house you’re touring may have the worst wallpaper or the ugliest bathtub you’ve ever seen, but if that house is on a great block in a good school district, it has lasting potential. Don’t take every house you see at face value. Each property has a story that fits into the larger location. If the location is prime, the house might be worth keeping on your list.
2. Don’t buy the best house on the block. Once you find a great location, avoid buying the best house on the block. This may sound strange, but there’s financial backing to it, and that’s crucial in a home buying guide for experienced buyers. If the home has already been renovated and has all the lovely landscaping and curb appeal, there isn’t much room for your investment to grow. With that, it’s actually better to buy the worst house on the best block and fix it up to match the standard found in the rest of the houses. This will, in time, add great return value on your investment.
3. The home’s position on the lot. This is one of those less obvious features we mentioned. How often do you really consider the home’s position on the lot as a factor in your home search? Maybe you didn’t before, but it’s something to observe. How close is the home to the street? The overgrown tree in the yard? The neighbor’s living room windows? Even if these aren’t concerns for you now as a buyer, they may prove to be problems when you try to sell the property in the future.
4. School district. As an experienced buyer, you’re probably looking to move into a better neighborhood for your kids. Many parents make school districts the starting point of their home search and, based on demand for high quality schools, the best districts may come with higher home prices. Even if you don’t have children, purchasing in a good school district is still a smart move. Usually, in places where the schools are desirable, the homes in that area will hold their value. Because of this trend, it’s wise to be aware of how the schools in your area are doing, just like you would keep tabs on the city government or neighborhood developments.
5. The character of the neighborhood. What’s the best gauge to see whether a neighborhood is in good character? Visit it at night. A single night drive through the prospective neighborhood will give you an excellent picture of the safety as well as the general mood of the area. Is anyone walking around? Do you hear shouting or loud music? Use your intuition on this one. If it just doesn’t feel right, your senses may be picking up on things you can’t explain. In addition to your night drive, visit the neighborhood at other times of the day to observe traffic and the neighbors. Are kids playing outside? Do the houses and cars seem to be well kept? You may even want to stop and ask the neighbors questions about the area, if you feel comfortable.
6. Crime check. You can’t have a home buying guide for experienced buyers (or first-time buyers, for that matter) without a look at the neighborhood crime figures. The fact is, you’ll never find a neighborhood with absolutely no crime. Research the area online, ask your real estate agent, or visit the local police department and see if you can ask questions to those dealing with the crime firsthand. Find out what the crime rate has been like in the neighborhood and decide whether that fits your standard of safety.
7. Walking distance. Now more than ever, “walkability” is becoming an important factor in home searches. People want to know how convenient it will be for them to get from their future home to their kids’ school, public transportation stops, recreation facilities, and convenience stores. If the culture continues to shift toward ridesharing and public transportation, the walkability of a home will increase its value and desire.
8. The implications of a fixer-upper. If your home search has resulted in the perfect home that just needs some work, are you prepared to take on that additional financial burden? Can your current lifestyle support the work of a home renovation? A fixer-upper could either sound like a major burden or a fun and exciting project. In either case (or if you’re somewhere in between) make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. In part, this means researching the costs to make the changes you want before you buy. Check out the local zoning and building codes and have the property inspected first—this will save you so much time and money—and emotional stress!
9. Fees outside of your mortgage. A good home buying guide for experienced buyers confesses that your mortgage payment and utility bills aren’t the only items on your home’s monthly bill. Many people overlook the other monthly fees associated with homeownership. You’ll most likely have to pay property taxes, and planned communities or HOAs will have fees and dues associated with your home. To help set accurate expectations, make sure that the property taxes and assessments are clear right from the start. Get involved with your new home’s HOA before you buy and be on the lookout for community changes in the works or signs that show whether the Association is well funded.
10. Long term value. Your real estate agent can help you with this one. Ask them if the home will hold its value over time, based on the trends of the neighborhood. You’ve done this before, so you know it’s possible you may sell your house again in the future. Even though the current market may be favorable for buyers now, will you be in a seller’s market later? Obviously, you can’t know these things for sure, but there are plenty of helpful online guides that make predictions based on the rise and fall of home values.
11. Buy before you sell. As a home shopper who already owns their current home, you will come up against this tricky decision to buy or sell first. There are pros and cons either way, but in general, buying your next home before you sell your current home will put you in a better position for several reasons. For one, you won’t feel pressured to accept low offers simply because you need to move into a house fast. You also won’t have to work out living arrangements while you’re between homes. And who looks forward to packing a whole houseful of things more than once? Although buying first can be a risky decision if you aren’t in a financial position to cover two mortgages for a short amount of time, it may be the better option if you financially qualify.
12. Don’t be afraid of technology. The culture is increasingly going digital (even in the housing industry) so don’t fight it when it comes to your mortgage. As an experienced buyer, this isn’t your first rodeo, so you’re going to want to make this process quick and streamlined. Embrace the speed of technology and ask your lender and real estate agent for online resources they know and trust to help make your search easier.
This isn’t our first rodeo either! As an experienced buyer, you want the best and the fastest. We’ve got the tools and expertise to guide you through your next home purchase.